total eclipse

Columbia, SC is one of the best places to experience America's first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse since 1918. At Carolina, we're celebrating our community's front-row seat with an ever-growing series of celestial exhibitions, expert discussions and scientific research.

At 2:41 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 21, viewers in the greater Columbia, SC area will enjoy a front-row seat to history with the longest 100 percent total eclipse viewing period: two minutes and 36 seconds. While partial eclipses are more common, the upcoming total solar eclipse is a remarkable and rare event.

History in the Making

During a total solar eclipse, the moon moves into perfect alignment with the sun. The sky darkens so much that planets and stars will become visible. The last total solar eclipse viewable in North America happened in 1979 and could only be seen in the Northwest states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and North Dakota. Unfortunately, the day was so cold and dreary that most could not even see the eclipse when it happened.

What’s great about the total solar eclipse is that will be accessible to everyone. You get your eclipse glasses, go out into your back yard or out on Main Street, look up and you’ll be able to experience a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event.

Steve Rodney, Astrophysicist


Learn from Our Experts

When the total solar eclipse arrives on Aug. 21 it will be a watershed moment for Carolina, Columbia and the United States. It will be the first total solar eclipse in the continental U.S. since 1979, and the first transcontinental total solar eclipse, in which the eclipse’s path goes coast to coast, in 99 years — and the University of South Carolina is ready to welcome this epic event.

For researcher April Hiscox and a team of University of South Carolina students, it's a moment that will add to their research of the Earth's near atmosphere, the layer that extends from earth’s surface to about a half-mile high. Hiscox’s team will be joined by 11 other universities from coast to coast, conducting a coordinated atmospheric survey during the eclipse. The helium-filled balloons, four to five feet in diameter, carry a small payload of sensors that measure solar radiation, temperature, atmospheric droplet concentration, wind speed and direction. The balloons will rise 8-10 kilometers, collapse and return to Earth via parachute.

Studio art professor and researcher Chris Robinson will connect art and science through his unique Southern Lights laser installation, which debuts Sat., Aug. 19. The large-scale installation will span the Congaree River near the Blossom Street Bridge and highlight the natural area for three hours beginning at dusk. Planned for long-term display, visitors will be able to enjoy the contemplative experience from many angles and enjoy how varying atmospheric conditions affect the laser beams. 


Campus Events

Being home to the longest period of total eclipse on the East Coast is significant. That's why, throughout the city, you'll find a galaxy of events to enjoy in the days leading up to the main event on the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 21. Here's a sampling of what will be available on campus.

17 Thursday, August 17
Visit the Hollings Library on the University of South Carolina Columbia Campus to see the dazzling collection Historical Astronomy Highlights Exhibition. Selected books, manuscripts and documents from The Robert B. Ariail Collection of Historical Astronomy will be on display in the Irvin Department Gallery at the University of South Carolina’s Hollings Library. The gallery will be open to the public on August 17 and 18 from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m, Saturday, August 19 from 1 – 4 p.m., and August 21 from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.

18 Friday, August 18
Solar physicist Dr. Sarbani Basu, Department of Astronomy Chair at Yale University, will explore the history of solar eclipses and what humankind has learned from them in a public lecture. Attend “Solar Eclipses: the Dread and the Fascination” from 7 – 8:30 p.m. in the W.W. Hootie Johnson Performance Hall (Room #101) in the Darla Moore School of Business. The public lecture is free and reservations are not needed. Seating will be on a first come, first served basis.

21 Monday, August 21

Eclipse Viewing Stations
The Department of Physics and Astronomy is operating solar telescopes and facilitating conversation at 10 viewing stations [pdf] across campus. To view the partial eclipse safely, you’ll need a pair of the safety glasses provided at each station. The partial eclipse will begin at about 1:13 p.m. with the total solar eclipse expected to begin at 2:41 p.m. The twilight-level darkness will last about two minutes and 36 seconds with full daylight returning by 4:06 p.m.

Public Lecture by Dr. Craig Roberts
After the eclipse fades, head over to the Darla Moore School of Business for a free public talk by Dr. Craig Roberts, a distinguished professor and senior physicist at Argonne National Laboratory, one of the U.S. Department of Energy's national laboratories for science and engineering research. In his "Laying the God Particle to Rest" discussion, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the W.W. Hootie Johnson Performance Hall (Room #101), Dr. Roberts will discuss how Higgs Boson can't be used to identify the source of more than 98 percent of the universe's visible mass.


A City-Wide Celebration

Residents and visitors to Columbia can enjoy a number of eclipse-related events in the long weekend leading up to the big event. The four-day celebration — dubbed Total Eclipse Weekend — features more than 50 eclipse-related festivals and events, from Aug. 18-21, 2017.

Enjoy everything from a series of short plays to a geocaching cointrail to a Star Wars Musiclipse (costumes encouraged!). As you firm up your plans, check back to see new events, which are being added daily.

Get ready be a part of history, Gamecocks!